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The Maine Coon Cat

You are considering a feline companion and have recently viewed a picture of a Maine Coon Cat, and the size and splendor of the animal now has you searching for information regarding the breed. What you might hope to discover about the Maine Coon is that she is in fact a wildcat, with having the propensity to assimilate a domestic environment. Typically what is found in literature about the Maine Coon is something much like this:

"The name 'Maine' comes form the north-eastern American State where the breed is thought to have originated. The 'Coon' portion of the name is mostly due to folklore. The original cats tended to be brown tabbies, with a very dark back and long flowing tail, rather like a raccoon, and long ago people thought that they must have evolved from matings between domestic cats and raccoons. There are lots of legends surrounding the Maine Coon's origins, including one that they originally came from Marie-Antionette and were transported to America from France for safety, when things started to heat up at the time of the French revolution."

Imaginations aside, the Maine Coon Cat is indeed among the rank and file of the wildcat as indicated in the following classification:

Trinomial name: Felis silvestris silvestris
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chrodata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Family: Felidae
Species: Felis silvestris
Sub-species: Felis silvestris catus
Race: Maine Coon

The Maine Coon Cat is a decendant of the Asian, African, and North American Wildcat, Felis silvestris silvestris. DNA sampling from ancient remains found from European, African, and North American archeological digs substantiate Felis migration patterns dating from over 400,000 years ago. Archeological discoveries of the remains from European wildcats indicate appearances on the continent some 450,000 - 200,000 years ago.

There are records which indicate domestication of cats in China and Egypt approximately 5500 - 4000 years ago, and in some Mediterranean areas as far back as 11,000 years. Domesticated cats colonized the entire world and became very common in Europe, spreading via major land and sea trade routes. Results from recent genetic testing of wildcats and domestic cats from various European and North American regions indicated deep signatures of genetic admixture and introgression with domestic cats. This diffusion of free-ranging domestic cats created the conditions for cross-breeding and introgression of domestic alleles into wildcats' genomes, perhaps comprimising the evolutionary trajectories of the continental wildcat.

A physical description of the European wildcat from Michigan State University zoological department indicates the female weighing 2.7 to 4 kg, the male 4 to 5 kg, with a body length of 500 to 750 mm and tail length 210 to 350 mm. The colour is grey-brown, bushy tail and well-defined patterns of black stripes over their entire body. The overall coloration is similar to the tabby domestic cat for camouflage in forested habitats. In North America the Maine Coon was the original American wild cat living along the eastern sea board, where the animal slowly began migrating towards farms where it was held in high esteem by farmers for its ability to catch vermin. The cat has all the points of a typical hunter. It has large eyes and ears, essential for detecting prey, and a big, muscular body for catching them. Being a cold climate animal it has a long shaggy coat, short over the head and becoming longer on the neck, back, stomach, legs, and ruff.

There is a very soft undercoat covered by a long, corrogated weatherproof maincoat, and completed with a harsher, coarse guard coat to keep the animal dry. The coat is not fluffy as with a Persian type, so that the animal cannot become entangled in hedgerows and brush while hunting. It is this shagginess which traps air and helps to keep the animal warm, and is essential for his survival. The legs are long, very thick and powerful, hind legs being longer than the front, and the feet are quite large and rounded. The feet are heavily tufted underneath growing backwards, and between the toes growing forward as well to form a 'snowshoe'. All this aids in coping with harsh winters and to prevent the loss of heat. The Maine Coon has large, feathered ears tufted at the tips, and feathering which extends beyond the outer edges of the ear. The frontal ruff starts at the base of the ears and is not any heavier in males than the females. The Maine Coon's coat is seasonal and much can be lost in the summer months, particularly with an intact feline.

The Maine Coon's biggest asset is her tail, and in fact she is often referred to as 'the tail with the cat on the end'. The tail is at least as long as the body and the cat can wrap it around its body rather like a blanket for extra insulation. The Maine Coon takes over 5 years to finish growing, and families that have adopted a Maine Coon kitten can expect to see a massive cat cantering about the house, when at 18 months he's still only a baby. Fully grown females average 4.6 to 7.3 kg and males 6.4 to 10 kg. Maine Coons are known as the "gentle giants" and possess great intelligence, which soon develops into a predisposition for training their owners to constantly provide them with new and innovative stimulation. They are playful throughout their lives, with males tending to be more clownish and females generally possessing more dignity, yet both are equally affectionate. I have found that it is the females who will seek out your lap, whereas males simply seek to rearrange the kitchen cupboards on a regular basis. Maine Coons are the clowns of the cat world, with a rather quiet but extrovert personality. A well documented Maine Coon characteristic describes "known loyalty to their family, and cautious but not mean around strangers. The Maine Coon Cat is quite independent." They adapt to new surroundings with ease, and readily accept new animal additions to the family. The Maine Coon is a very affectionate creature happy to be loved by any member of the household, although he does tend to choose one particular person on whom to bestow most affection.

A rainbow of Maine Coon colours are possible within breed standards. First, what you won't find are Maine Coon cats bred to be lavender, chocolate, or to have pointed tips, like the Siamese.What you will find is everything else, from Solid to Tabby, Black to White, and everything in between. A Maine Coon can have gold, green, or bronze eyes. White Coons might have blue eyes, or odd colored eyes. Maine Coon cat colors are even complimented by their leather. This is their nose and paw pads. So darker cats such as brown, black, or blue will have leather from brown to black. A light or red colored Maine Coon will have leather in shades of rose or pink, all the way to brick red. There are many colour combinations in the Maine Coon Breed Standards. These include solids, tortioseshells, tabbies (both Classic and Mackerel), tortie-tabbies, and smokes, all with or without white. Since the colour can take several months to fully develop, this can lead to headaches when registering kittens, as the colour you see at eight weeks may be completely different three months later as it develops.

Maine Coons have a fascination with water and need the stimulation provided by playing in a bath tub or perhaps the kitchen sink. Rubber ducks, plastic boats, or even a floating lilly pad complete with frog, will enhance your cats playtime. Although they are highly intelligent, a dripping tap can turn them into idiots, as they happily spend hours catching drops without realizing that they're slowly starting to resemble a drowned rat. The Maine Coon is most definitely a "lap cat" and their gentle disposition makes the breed relaxed around dogs, other cats, and children. Maine Coon Cats do not meow, but rather employ a large vocabulary of sounds that include, but are not limited to chortling, chattering, chirping, mureeping, talking back to their owners, and making other loud vocalizations. It is prudent for one to learn Coon Ease and Maine Speak at an early stage in Maine Coon Cat guardianship.

The one thing you need to understand is that a Maine Coon cannot be compared with a domestic cat, pure blood or otherwise. Bringing a Maine Coon into your home is the same as having a toddler to raise, except the Coon will always be a toddler. They are high maintenance in that they need as much of your time as they can get. They are highly intelligent and require an enriched and stimulating environment. The love and attention they ask for cannot be taken lightly. Ignore their needs and you will soon be dealing with behaviours that are unsuitable to daily life in the home.

One question often raised is about the female Maine Coon. There are quite a number of differences with the females that can make living with one an attractive prospect. A female will always start her day off with an agenda, although nobody else seems to know what it is. But her day will always begin with a purpose. Females act more dignified than males do, and certainly have much better litter box etiquette. Females have better grooming habits and will spend a fair bit of time grooming a male. A female will tend to stay and sleep with you during the night, and is the one seeking more lap time than a male would. And for certain, a female will consume more food than a male. Females are typically 3 to 5 lbs lighter than males, although we have produced a number of girls larger than their male litter mates. Whether male or female, Maine Coons are steadfast companions, but you must be prepared to give a good portion of your life to them.